On Two of the Less Appreciated Films of 2014

You probably never heard of these two

It was a great year for movies. For all the doom saying and fear mongering about the franchising of cinema and the creative gloom it’s supposed to bring, 2014 yielded one of the strongest years in the millennium. I’ve seen 17 of the theatrical releases from this year and I only disliked one of them (Mockingjay Part 1, which is boring and suffers greatly from being a Part 1). Movies I’m not huge on, like Godzilla, I still find redemptive aspects in. And I’ve loved many movies from this year, like Gone Girl, Nightcrawler, and of course Marvel’s two offerings that step high and above other films of their ilk.

But I’m not here to praise films that you saw and/or read a hundred articles about. I’m not even here to talk about my favorite movie of the year, which was Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. As much as I love those films , I don’t feel compelled to add my two cents to the conversations surrounding them. These two films on the other hand, I want to talk about because they seem to have been lost in the shuffle.

Calvary

Bleak barely begins to describe Calvary. It’s depressing, grim, pessimistic, and unflinching. With Brenden Gleeson providing an incredible central performance, the film takes you through a week in the life of an Irish-Catholic priest who has been marked for death by a member of his flock. His flock, however, resents him. It’s not clear why, though. The priest is never anything but a standup guy, a priest who doesn’t force religion upon anyone as well as a man who respects and listens to what people tell him, even when they tell him how much they hate him. He comes off as saintly, almost.

The film then takes you on a journey with this man as he bears the brunt of a community’s cynicism while he tries to make things right with them and his daughter. A film of nuance and grace, Calvary makes you understand everybody involved. Director John Michael McDonagh’s bleak subject material matches his photography senses. He captures the cloudy skies and lonely mountains of the Irish countryside like it’s a natural force surrounding and closing in on its main character. And Gleeson, one of our most unappreciated actors, puts the film on his back like the priest puts his town and his daughter on his. It’s a truly amazing film.

Locke

Tom Hardy sits in a car for 90 minutes and talks to various people via blutooth. It sounds like a high-concept thriller, but in reality Locke is just an examination of real world, down to earth ethics and what it really means to do the right thing. This film is more nerve-wracking than a lot of so-called thrillers that studios crank out with abandon, and it’s got Tom Hardy’s mesmerizing performance to thank. You’ve seen him play larger-than-life figures like Bane and Charles Bronson (in Bronson, look it up), now watch him just play a man with a crisis of conscience.

Ivan Locke is stuck in the middle of a desperate situation that he created for himself. He knows he has no one else to blame and takes it upon himself to try to make it right. Along the way, he learns how far this car ride will resonate with his family and coworkers and how much it will unravel his life.

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